Back to Research & Development

Report Detail Page

Minimising the risk of nitrite toxicity in ruminants when dietary nitrate is used to mitigate methane emissions

  • Inorganic nitrate ingested by ruminants is reduced to nitrite then ammonia by rumen microbes. This two-step process deprives methanogens of hydrogen thus reducing methanogenesis while providing a nitrogen source for microbial growth.
  • Absorption of the intermediate nitrite into the blood can be associated with hypoxia as a result of formation of methaemoglobin (MetHb) and other metabolically active intermediates such as nitric oxide. The syndrome is often termed nitrite toxicity.
  • This review assesses how the risk of MetHb formation may be reduced in nitrate-fed ruminants to allow confidence in nitrate feeding as a commercial management practice.
  • Potential control points were identified in regard to (1) reducing nitrite accumulation in the rumen contents and its entry into the blood and (2) reducing MetHb accumulation in the red blood cell.
  • This report provides
    • Detailed appendices containing reviews of current knowledge and the underpinning literature
    • A summary of current knowledge and opportunities for manipulation about each control point
    • A list of critical gaps in understanding of nitrate and nitrite metabolism in ruminants and potential management interventions that require research to enable safer management of nitrate-fed ruminants
    • Description of the research questions needing answers to permit practical and safe management strategies for use of nitrate in diets for ruminants


Title Size Date published
1.9MB 03/03/2015


Contract No. Title Start date End date Funding type
Minimising the risks of nitrite toxicity when dietary nitrate is used to mitigate methane output in sheep and cattle
30/08/2014 22/05/2015

This page was last updated on 19/09/2018